The Spatial Reconfiguration of Thailand’s Society and Economy after the Coup of 2014

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This is the abstract of the paper I will be presenting at the IFRD Conference at the BBD Building on June 6th (I have others of which I am a co-author which I will publish shortly).

The Spatial Reconfiguration of Thailand’s Society and Economy after the Coup of 2014

Abstract

After the military coup of May 2014, the junta subsequently awarded itself sweeping powers to reconfigure Thai society and economy according to an imaginary vision of the past. This has taken place at three different scales: street level; urban level and national level. At the street level, the junta has made efforts to eliminate street vendors and beggars. This has taken place both in Bangkok and other major cities and in seaside holiday resorts including Pattaya and Phuket, where many members of Thailand’s extensive informal economy earn a precarious living by servicing international tourists with sun loungers, umbrellas and personal services such as massage and hair braiding. This has been coupled with an large-scale campaign to control and regulate the large international migrant labour sector in the country. At the city level, the junta has, after some prevarication, decided to push ahead with most of the extensive transportation infrastructure building programme created under the democratically elected Pheu Thai party. This programme will ink Thailand more closely with the rest of Asia through the Asian Highway Network being headed by the Asian Development Bank. Within the city, the extension of the Skytrain and subway lines will continue to redefine the different places where people live and the types of accommodation – specifically condominium units – they choose to live. At the national level, border special economic zones have been announced that are intended to take advantage of cross-border day migrant labour that will, nevertheless, contribute towards the advanced value-adding activities required to help move the country out of the Middle Income Trap. This paper provides a critical analysis of these changes in the light of broader changes within the Kingdom and highlights some of the likely repercussions of change in both the short and long-terms.

Keywords: coup; informal economy; Middle Income Trap; spatial reconfiguration; Thailand

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